The Lesson of the $300 Sunglasses

by Katy on February 19, 2016 · 40 comments

The following is a reprint of a previously published post. Enjoy!

I may live my life avoiding the mall as if my life depended on it, but my kids are teenagers and make their own choices. Just yesterday, my 15-year-old son and a friend spent a couple hours after school shopping for a birthday gift and enjoying all that our nearby mall has to offer. I picked them up afterwards, (I’m not a fan of nighttime mass transit for my kids) and enjoyed listening to their chatter in the backseat of the car.

“Did you see that $300 pair of sunglasses?”

“No. Were they made from gold?”

“They actually looked really normal.”

At this point I had to interject.

“I like to find sunglasses at Goodwill, that way I don’t freak out if they get lost or scratched up.”

I started to think about how because my thrifted sunglasses are so cheap, that I end up treating them, well . . . less than respectfully. They slosh around in my purse, jostling up against my keys, wallet and assorted detritus, garnering about as much respect as Rodney Dangerfield at a 1970’s feminist convention. And really, why should I care? They’re cheap, cheap, cheap!

But this is not good. Essentially, I am treating my belongings poorly because I know they are easily replaceable and cost less than a drive-thru burger. If I bought the $300 sunglasses, you know I would store them in a sunglasses case, making sure to clean them only with a microfiber cloth with much admiring of myself in the rear view mirror. In  others words, not the Rodney Dangerfield treatment.

The lesson here? I should continue to buy my sunglasses at Goodwill, but treat them as if I didn’t. And really, I should treat all my Stuff in this manner. $15 antique desk? Still need to use a coaster. Bargain of a fixer-upper house? Should still occasionally clean it.

Have you found that you treat your cheap purchases worse than if you’d spent a ton of money? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”

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{ 40 comments… read them below or add one }

Dawn February 19, 2016 at 12:24 am

I bought a pair of “Fox” Sunglasses for 2 bucks at a yard sale but when I got home and looked up how much they cost retail I bought a case for them for five dollars and took real good care of them…retail over 100.00


Grace February 19, 2016 at 3:23 am

I did the same thing too, then I found a pair of legit Gucci shades for $60 a the a consignment shop (my old shades were in AWFUL shape).
It was like a quarter of new and with how all of my friends say “I’m gucci” when they’re good to go, it was with the if for the practicality and pun. Got a case and they’re my baby, always in my handbag.

I’m firmly in the camp of if something costs more to replace, I’m less likely to lose it or take bad care of it. People think I’m nuts for dropping $40 on a fountain pen but considering the use I will get out of it! Not to mention everyone else cites my being nuts is because THE would lose it. HAH. You’d misplace it once, realize you need to replace it, and you’d start keeping much better track of your stuff.


Kate February 19, 2016 at 4:08 am

That’s so funny that you mentioned fountain pens. I just handed in a paper this week on the rhetoric of the ballpoint pen(still don’t quite know what I was talking about), and I discussed the fact that, unlike fountain pens, we don’t have respect for ballpoints because they’re not as financially precious to us. It’s far easier – and cheaper – to load up on free or cheap ballpoints and then toss them when they run out of ink than to buy a fountain pen or spend the time and money finding refills for the few ballpoints that can be refilled. Because of that, we tend not to value ballpoints the way one does even an inexpensive fountain pen.


tonya parham February 19, 2016 at 5:44 am

I’m so nerdy–and I love pens!– I want to read your paper! LOL


Marcia February 19, 2016 at 12:18 pm

I love pens too, and I don’t disrespect them at all. I will take every free one I get my hands on, and in my house there is usually a pen within arm’s reach everywhere except the bathroom!! Also my daughter used to work for doctor’s offices, and she brought me boxes and bags of extras. I probably have enough for my lifetime, but keep acquiring them anyhow. It’s kind of weird–no idea WHY, except I do make a lot of lists and labels!


Grace February 19, 2016 at 4:22 pm

Why not the bathroom, too? It’s the perfect thinking room! 😛
I do have a fischer’s space pen that I don’t really use because it hurts my hand(all ballpoints do, actually) and you just gave me a great idea for it’s perfect home! I can write in the tub!!!

Grace February 19, 2016 at 4:20 pm

Haha, small world, huh? Maybe you could sell that article to The Pen Addict? If you choose to post it here I’ll link it to Brad Dowdy, maybe he’ll talk about it on the podcast. 😛

But yeah as soon as you attach a heftier price tag to something, it’s more of a prized possession than “just a pen.”

My Gucci sunnies will hopefully outlive me, hehe,


Mariana February 19, 2016 at 5:54 am

A few years back I found a brand new pair of Ray Bans on a bench at a train station. Someone just got them and forgot them. Ugh. Too bad for them, too good for me! I considered selling them on eBay as they were trending at $100 or so but decided to keep them. I treated them like gold. Carrying in the case etc. I was ‘saving’ them for special ocassions and usually just wore my old crappy ones.
Until I lost my Ray Bans and I don’t even know how and where 🙁 I really hope someone enjoys them as much as I did. Snif snif


Marilyn February 19, 2016 at 10:41 am

I am not big on fussing over things either. When I am tempted to buy something that I do not absolutely need, I think about think about how much care it will require. At one time, I wanted a silk plant for my entryway, but then I thought, “Oh, I will have to dust it” so I never bought one. I don’t have a lot of knick-knacks for the same reason. And I only buy clothes which I can throw in the washing machine. However, I have taken pretty good care of my few very expensive possessions, especially my car. So,yes, I suppose I am guilty of focusing my care and attention on the things which will cost a lot of money to replace.


Grace February 19, 2016 at 4:25 pm

I’ll even buy secondhand clothes that say “Dry clean only” if they look sturdy enough to throw in the washing machine. If I can’t be bothered to put even my bras in their mesh bag before washing, my dry cleaning can be washed like normal too.

But I think your last sentence is deff a universal truth.


Looby February 19, 2016 at 6:14 pm

I do hope that you first went to the train station’s lost and found?


tonya parham February 19, 2016 at 5:56 am

I don’t really treat any of my possessions with the care I should. That’s a problem, perhaps. I’m just not a very careful person, so going with the cheaper option is a good idea for me because I’m just not going to take care of things like I should. I don’t mean I purposefully ruin things, but I don’t worry and fuss over objects either.

There’s a balance between being careful and being materialistic– I tend to go opposite and just treat all my goods as tools. That’s changed some since I started wearing glasses–a good lesson for me–but I am a work in progress!


chris February 19, 2016 at 6:15 am

No, not really. I come from a long line of Accidental Destroyers. Despite our intentions, we just don’t take very good care of things and/or break them when we are actually trying to take care of them. Lol. We spend a lot of time not noticing what the heck we are doing, losing things, running into doorjambs, tripping on stuff and etc.
My mom and brother are very much this way, as well. They think I am super organized and careful…but it is only by comparison. So, it isn’t a cost thing, it is a generalized problem of not caring for things. Probably because things are not that important to me and I am clumsy. I like having nice things, but it doesn’t bother me to not have them. Meh.
My youngest son takes this to the next level…nothing that he owns survives belonging to him, with the notable exception of Legos. I think Legos are indestructible, though. Holes in the knees within five wearings, broken toys, books dropped in the sink, lamps knocked over when he just walks into the room…he is like a comedy skit.


Jennifer February 19, 2016 at 7:51 am

This reminds me of the time I was sterilizing all my breastfeeding equipment. I accidently let the water boil out and I have a round disk of melted plastic bottles, lids, etc. that I still have as a reminder of that time in my life. I was so tired but doing my best.


Bee February 19, 2016 at 2:04 pm

LOL. Having a new baby is exhausting. When my first son was 6 weeks old, I caught the kitchen on fire while sterilizing nipples and pacifiers. I sat down to eat and fell asleep. The water boiled out of the pan and the latex caught fire. It was a mess ! The fireman took such good care of me and my son. I have a soft spot for first responders.


Jennifer February 19, 2016 at 2:18 pm

The of melted stuff looks kinda like a piece of artwork with different colored, rings, nipples, etc. in it. Some of them are sorta still in the correct shape. I never actually set a fire but was super close to so many incidents, lol. Fun times!

Cheryl February 19, 2016 at 6:13 am

Caring for the the things you own is not just a sign of frugality, but of maturity in assuming personal responsibility. Keeping your home, car, tools and other possessions allows them to do the function you bought them for and last longer. My husband sharpens the lawn mower blades, knives, scissors and other tools as well as changing oil, checking tires, fluid levels, etc. keeping them maintained, means less in repairs.


Stephanie February 19, 2016 at 6:47 am

I have a pair of Ray-bans I bought new in 1999. Still have those suckers even after multiple years of year round wear. They no longer look new but I try to keep everything until it dies, including clothing. The kids know to sort their dirty laundry (90% thrift store) and bring me anything that needs stain treating. I know some of it only cost 99 cents but we are trying to each them to take care of what they own.


Stacy February 19, 2016 at 5:28 pm

My father-in-law has had his Ray Bans for 20+ years that they even lasted longer than the case they came in. Luckily I gave him my old case from the pair that fell overboard on our boat!!! That will never happen again! Ugh


Jennifer February 19, 2016 at 7:44 am

So funny that you had this post today. I put my sunglasses on my head early this morning and began to think about them a little bit. My daughter gave them to me because she didn’t like the way they looked about 5 years ago. Her friend had given them to her because she felt they smelled like chemicals or “plastic-ee”. They don’t smell like anything because I have had them so long. These sunglasses are not high end, probably comparible to a dollar store brand. I have been wearing them as sunglasses/head band ever since. They have been to the beach with me and a some other trips. It’s amazing how much life I have got out of these “cheap sunglasses” that I didn’t even pay for.


Vickie February 19, 2016 at 7:54 am

I try to take care of my sunglasses. Even though they are cheap, I hate replacing them. I have a hard time finding ones that fit me correctly and a tint I like. So, I put them in a glass case – same goes for my reading glasses. I don’t spend more than $5 on them, but I do my best to take care of them too.

I agree with you on taking care of things. I want my stuff to last and it usually does, but I treat my clothes, shoes, etc. just like I would if I’d bought designer stuff.


AmyWW February 19, 2016 at 8:20 am

I dislike shopping, especially at Goodwill/thrift stores, so I try hard to take care of my things so that I won’t have try to find a replacement. I am naturally hard on things (I don’t know why! Stuff just breaks/wears out around me in spite of my being careful) but I keep track of them and repair them when possible. I also try to just “make do” without a lot of things as a sort of challenge.
There’s a poem that I love called “Ode to Broken Things” by Pablo Neruda. It’s the theme song of my life.


kathleen February 19, 2016 at 8:21 am

One time I found a designer blouse for $1. When it got a stain that wouldn’t come out, I was distraught! (Not really but I was a little upset!). I could never replace it at that price. So if I get a great deal on something I really take care of it.


Judy February 19, 2016 at 8:51 am

I take care of all my things, but with my thrift store items I don’t worry
about them. Expensive things have a tendency to run into problems
more and then I feel bad that I wasted the money on them in the first place.


Amanda S @ Passionately Simple Life February 19, 2016 at 9:04 am

It happens with anything for me! Whether I paid $5, $50 or $500 after awhile, I forget the value of it and don’t treat it with the respect it deserves. Sometimes I try and remind myself that nothing in life is a given and that everything used during the day deserves respect.


JD February 19, 2016 at 9:06 am

I find I am more careless with less expensive things that I can easily replace, if they aren’t important to me. If I truly love it, I take great care of it, regardless of what I paid for it. I need to be more careful of cheap whatever things, too, though — how many pairs of cheap-o sunglasses have I tossed in my car seat only to sit on them when I got back in? I now have prescription driving glasses, and I treat them like gold. I should always do that.
On the other hand, I live with a husband who breaks and loses everything, not purposely of course, whether it is his or mine. He’s deadly on possessions. I saved up and bought him a top brand left-handed circle saw to replace his cheap and backward-to-him, right-handed circle saw, and he sliced the cord off of it the first time he used it. Yeah, a cord can be fixed, but still…. I wanted to kill him for just a bit.


Ruby February 19, 2016 at 9:18 am

I do take really good care of my things. It’s an insult to the time I spent working to pay for them/hunting for them if I don’t. Heck, I even mend underpants, but when something is truly worn out or no longer fixable, I have no problems letting it go.


Nadya February 19, 2016 at 2:34 pm

Ruby, you perfectly articulated the way I feel about caring for my stuff. Thanks!


Katja February 19, 2016 at 10:27 am

I just bought 2 pairs of boots second hand, and first thing I did, I shoeshined them.
Relaxing activity to me, plus they look super now and will last me long time.


Bettypants February 19, 2016 at 11:56 am

I am guilty of this. Eh, it was cheap or I will easily replace it.

When we had several travel coffee mugs, I would leave one in the car, at the office, whatever, there were plenty floating around. But sometimes I would end up in the morning without a clean mug at home. Now I have one great travel mug that I take home every single night. That was a great lesson for me. The less I have, the easier is to keep track and the more care I will take.


mary smith February 19, 2016 at 1:39 pm

To me, what matters more is how much I love the thing – not what I paid for it. I try to only buy things I love.


Michelle February 19, 2016 at 3:49 pm

I actually have three hundred dollar sunglasses. They’re not a designer brand, but by the time we pay for the quirks of my prescription and the high index whatever and having the edges beveled, that’s what they cost.

I’ve had my current pair for a couple of years. The pair I had before them must’ve been fifteen years old. I’d still be wearing them, but my prescription finally changed too much.


linda February 19, 2016 at 4:34 pm

I just have to share my sun glass story. I have prescription sun glasses and they are expensive so I take very good care of them. One of the temples broke at the hinge. I took it in and they said they were still making that frame even though it was 3 years old. they ordered the temple I needed (the hinge could not be repaired so need a new temple with a new hinge). They had to order both temples as the company would not let the doctor order just one side. When the temple came in the Dr. called to see which side I needed/ I needed the right temple. Another patient had come in with the same glasses needing the left side. So we each split the price. What are the chances on the 3 year old frame that someone at the same Dr. office would break the opposite temple on my same style of glasses. saved half the cost but thought the coincidence was more remarkable than the savings


Lynn D. February 19, 2016 at 5:59 pm

I collect old Lipton tea pot sets. They come in blue, maroon, yellow and black and green. I broke my yellow tea pot, but still had the sugar bowl and creamer. I found a complete set reasonably priced at an antique shop but only needed the teapot. The owner did not want to break up the set. Another customer overheard us and she wanted the sugar bowl and creamer! We split the difference and were very happy. By the way I have never found the sets in black or green.


linda February 19, 2016 at 6:33 pm

loved your story. sometimes it just works out.


Marie-Josée February 20, 2016 at 5:56 am

What a great story Linda, and what serendipity!


Betty Winslow February 19, 2016 at 7:37 pm

I love polarized sunglasses, which are usually expensive and sometimes hard to find. I buy them whenever I find a pair I like, then keep the ones I wear in a case and treat them like gold. I had a pair of prescription sunglasses for a while, but left them at a funeral home and they never showed up. I was very sad. If I like something (and if I don’t, why have it?), I try to take good care of it. I hate replacing things!!


Renee February 19, 2016 at 8:02 pm

I will tell you that I bought a rather expensive pair of sunglasses in Hawaii because I lost my $25 sunglasses and it was either the expensive ones that looked good or the cheap I ones that made me look like an insect. In discussing the prospective purchase with my husband, he said that if they were going to be my everyday pair then it made sense, because the man understands cost per wear. And they are. And I treat them waaaaay better than I treated my old ones, although I do still occasionally put them on top of my head which I know is a bad idea, but I’m trying to break that habit.


pattilou February 20, 2016 at 10:54 am

I really try to take care of my things. I usually hang on to sunglasses for a really long time – to the point where my nieces joke that I buy them when they are in style. They go out of style and I still have the same pair when they come back in style again. My last pair ended up getting badly scratched when they fell as I was stopping my niece from taking a tumble. I picked up one of my sister’s many pairs that she leaves lying around and have been wearing them for 3 months. She never noticed until I told her. Now I have a new to me pair.


TerriC February 20, 2016 at 6:27 pm

I have a nice pair of sunglasses, the nicest I’ve ever had and they are mine because my husband wanted me to buy good sunglasses this time around. I do notice that my previous dollar store choices always had some sort of distortion and the frames were incredibly easy to warp. Not so much with the good ones. But YES I do take extremely good care of the glasses. I am aware that they are the sort of gift I don’t have often and I want to keep them nice. That said, I am just as careful of the $10 blouse or the hand me down purse. It doesn’t matter what it cost, it was a privilege to be able to buy it or be given it and I want to take really good care of the things I have.


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